Design Against Crime: Crime Proofing Everyday Products

Front Cover

Crime Prevention Studies, Volume 27

Edited by Paul Ekblom

Buy this volume from Lynne Rienner Publishers

In 2005, Volume 18 of Crime Prevention Studies introduced the field of designing products and systems against crime, moving beyond the early interest in vehicle security and into a far wider range especially consumer electronics and mobile phones. Most of the chapters in that collection, however, centred on broad reviews and policy issues, reflecting the relatively limited state of evolution of the field.

Seven years on, developments have occurred on two fronts. There is a greater understanding of the process of assessing products' risk and security, and evaluating impact. There is increasing practical experience of designing products against crime in a way that is informed by research. Here are presented results of attempts to incorporate security within bike stands, table clips for handbags in bars, supermarket carts, and waste bins on stations. There do, however, remain some significant constraints on implementation though we are becoming more familiar with their nature and what to do about them.

Besides illustrating the significant progress made in the last few years, the present volume raises issues for the future. In particular it questions whether design against crime is becoming, or should become, an interdiscipline in its own right; and what crime science can, or cannot, contribute to the design process. It also addresses a vital aspect of implementation of any design against crime program. To this end, it presents a framework, derived from environmental economics, for motivating manufacturers to reduce the pollution of the social (and natural) environment by criminogenic products.


by Paul Ekblom
The Security Function Framework
by Paul Ekblom

Most kinds of object, system, communication, service or place are the fruits of deliberate professional design. Increasingly, design against crime is part of that process. The central interest in this chapter is on the security function of products of all kinds. More specifically, how to describe both the rationale that underlies the activity of design against crime (DAC), and the immediate output of that process, in the shape of the working prototypes and production models of design. A structured approach is presented, the Security Function Framework (SFF), developed on the basis of both criminological and design experience. This covers purpose (what is it for and what other commercial and social requirements must it meet?), security niche (what is the product or system protecting itself or something/someone else?), mechanism (how does it work physically and socially?) and technicality (how is it constructed and manufactured and how does it operate in practice?).

Embedding Crime Prevention within Design
by Andrew B. Wootton and Caroline L. Davey

Through initiatives such as Design Against Crime (DAC), European designers, manufacturers and developers are being encouraged to address crime and related social issues within design and development projects. But how can we evaluate their efforts, when design operates within different national contexts and covers a broad range of disciplinesfrom product and graphic design, to landscape design, architecture and planning? This chapter presents the DAC Evaluation Framework, created to support and evaluate crime prevention within design development.

The Design Against Crime Evaluation Framework draws on research undertaken since the 1960s on success factors in new product development (NPD). The DAC Evaluation Framework provides designers, manufacturers and developers with detailed guidance on how to integrate crime prevention within activities undertaken during the development cycle. The Framework covers the entire product lifecycle, including maintenance, monitoring and business learning. It focuses on key NPD success factorsthe attributes, activities and approaches highlighted by the NPD literature as increasing the chances of a development being successful. These are the activities that development organisations should be seeking to implement for commercial reasons, anyway. By integrating crime prevention within these activities, the Framework seeks to embed Design Against Crime within development organisations by "slipping it in their food", so to speak. The process approach to embedding crime prevention within products, services and environments is transferable between different contexts and design disciplines. The Framework also aims to enable researchers and crime prevention experts to conduct rigorous evaluations of design solutions, providing an Interview Pro Forma and Report Structure for this purpose.

Project partners validated the Framework against ten design development projects in the UK, Netherlands, Austria, Greece and Poland. There are significant differences between European countries in terms of their support of and need for design-centred crime prevention. The design-centred approach is more established in the UK and Netherlands, where it is supported by the police and government policies/legislation. This approach is newer to Austria and Germany, however, where crime levels are lower and concerns focus on fear of crime and social inclusion. Instruments were developed to help understand the impact of national context on design-centred crime prevention. The DAC Evaluation Framework was launched in November 2005.

Making a Brave Transition from Research to Reality
by Rachel Armitage

This chapter reviews the progress made within the field of product design and crime prevention and suggests that although much has been discussed, little has made the transition from research to policy or practice. Whist accepting that this weakness can be explained in part through limited funding and changes in personnel within key organisations, it is suggested that the central difficulty has been a lack of leadership from a central organisation as well as a tendency to avoid proposals which may seem unfeasible, unrealistic or unachievable. This chapter proposes a system to measure the risk of theft of electronic products, to motivate developers to design secure products and encourage consumers to demand secure products. Borrowing ideas from the built environment, food standards and environmental protection, it is suggested that perhaps it is time for those working within the field of product design and crime prevention to be a bit brave and to push forward proposals to make research a reality.

A Market Approach to Crime Prevention
by Graeme R. Newman

This paper explores the policy implications of thinking about crime prevention as a market like other markets that operate to reduce or mitigate injury or damage to individuals, groups or property on a global scale. It begins by examining some traditional crime related markets and some new markets that have been spawned by the information technology environment. Markets to reduce negative externalities based on the concept of social efficiency are contrasted to the traditional way of controlling crime. The role of government in reducing negative externalities including crime is then reviewed, taking the trading in carbon emissions designed to reduce air pollution as a model. Cyber crime is suggested as a possible target for this market reduction approach because of its similarities to environmental pollution, and a specific type of cyber crime, plastic card fraud is then used to illustrate how a crime reduction market might work. This crime is chosen as an example because of its history of successful government intervention, although the crime reduction effects appear to have been short lived for a variety of reasons. The policy advantages of the market approach to crime reduction are then considered.

Designing Against Bicycle Theft
by Adam Thorpe, Shane D. Johnson, and Aiden Sidebottom

An evaluation of two design-based interventions to reduce bicycle theft in central London is presented. The first, evaluating the impact of information and communication strategies to educate cyclists of secure locking practice; the second, assessing the effectiveness of seven different bicycle parking stands designed to encourage secure locking practice. Over 8,400 observations of cyclists locking their bicycles were made. Statistical analysis indicated that overall, locking practice significantly improved for both types of intervention. For the bicycle stands, effectiveness varied across the seven designs tested. Implications for bicycle theft reduction and the evaluation of design-based interventions more generally are also discussed.

Designing a Counterterrorism Trash Bin
by Rohan Lulham, Olga Camacho Duarte, Kees Dorst, and Lucy Kaldor

Through the case study of designing a counterterrorism trash bin, we reflect on the approach to design-led crime prevention developing at the Designing Out Crime Research Centre at the University of Technology, Sydney. We describe and explore the complexities of the CT bin design process, highlighting how the technique of reframing the problem was central to the development of the design. By analyzing the CT bin product using common environmental criminology frameworks, we highlight an apparent paradox of these frameworks: that they are useful for description and evaluation of products, but are seemingly less useful for actually designing products. We suggest this paradox stems from the origins of these frameworks and argue that what is required is a greater focus on studying the features, qualities, and information present in design processes that produce products effective in designing out crime.

Packaging against Counterfeiting
by Lorenzo Segato

Although several studies demonstrate that packaging can play a relevant role in preventing counterfeiting, industry still pays little attention on this. Existing "good practices" focus on holograms and seals put on packages containing products of high value and circulation (e.g. CDs/DVDs, print cartridges, electronic devices), or to different colour combinations, or to RFID technologies. However, they represent only a minority (albeit a large one) of products on the market, and cooperation between the design sector and researchers over the opportunities of packaging against counterfeiting is still limited.

Causes of such a gap may include the limited experience of crime-proof package design, rather than the different level of attention/investment that each sector pays to the packaging of its products; and the segmentation of the packaging life cycle, where package designers work separately from film producers and packaging machine sellers.

The article first analyses the relevance of packaging in the different economic sectors (i.e. clothing and accessories, electronics, food, chemical industries, pharmaceutical, cosmetics ), and the roles of different actors. Second, it addresses the counterfeiting problem in order to understand where "secure packaging" can play a role in crime prevention, in particular in the food and pharmaceutical sectors.

Reducing Handbag Theft
by Paul Ekblom, Kate Bowers, Lorraine Gamman, Aiden Sidebottom, Chris Thomas, Adam Thorpe, and Marcus Willcocks

This chapter presents a detailed account of the considerations in designing a clip that fixes customers' bags to tables in bars, to protect them against theft. On the face of this is a very simple idea, but in practice the factors that had to be addressed and resolved were many and complex. The account richly illustrates that complexity, and puts the Security Function Framework through its paces in capturing, organising and making sense of the knowledge from a major research project. It also takes forward the process of bringing together design and crime science.

Supermarket Carts to Reduce Handbag Theft
by Aiden Sidebottom, Peter Guillaume, and Tony Archer

Crime is a major concern for many retailers. Typically, research exploring crime at retail establishments has focused on retailers as the victims of crime, with fewer studies focusing on retail establishments as the location for crime against third parties. This chapter concentrates on the latter, and describes the first trial of a design-based intervention developed as part of practitioner-led problem-oriented policing project. The intervention known as the trolley safe' is a basket attached to the underside of supermarket trolleys (known as shopping carts in North America) designed to provide a secure store for customers' bags thereby reducing opportunities for bag theft. A suite of 285 trolley safes was implemented in one U.K. store of a major supermarket chain for a trial period of three months. Due to the limited timeframe available, the evaluation was predominantly process-oriented, with the aim of capturing knowledge on the suitability of and customer response to the intervention in the supermarket setting. Results indicated that the intervention was well received and used (correctly) by a modest but not insignificant proportion of supermarket customers - interpreted as an intermediate outcome measure. Various design-based issues also arose which are discussed in terms of improving second-generation trolley safes. As anticipated, no impact on bag theft levels was observed at the treatment site compared to the control. This is attributed to the too brief timescale for evaluation and, consequently, the low number of bag thefts. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings and makes suggestions on how to improve the research design used here.

Slowing Thefts of Fast-Moving Goods
by Martin Gill and Ronald V. Clarke

This chapter is focussed on understanding what makes goods attractive to thieves. It looks specifically at disposability, since for many thieves, and this includes all those who are not stealing for personal consumption, being able to sell stolen goods quickly for cash is a key driver of theft, both opportunistic and organised. Yet, and with a few notable exceptions, there has been relatively little focus on what makes different types of goods attractive to different types of thieves. Our study offers some insights into the Fast Moving Consumer Goods market. This is massive, indeed it is worldwide, and we report on a global study that included consideration of why thieves want to steal FMCG. We offer a new mnemonic, AT CUT PRICES, to provide a framework for understanding the characteristics of these goods that make them easily disposable by thieves. At the end of the paper we suggest ways in which our work may be further developed.

by Paul Ekblom